Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meeting People

Back in the day, as a new practice period student going to afternoon zazen, I remember being struck by how Blanche, who was the abbess in those days, would go round to the end of the gaitan after service, and wait to bow to everyone who came out of the zendo. It was something we read of Suzuki Roshi doing in the early days of Sokoji; it had a profound effect on many of those who came to sit with him then, who felt completely seen and met. I felt the same way at seeing Blanche's kind warm eyes and smile waiting for me to take my place and bow in front of her - such freely offered, abundant love is rarely met.
With the start of the practice period, she has been sitting again most every evening, and heading out to the gaitan to meet people, and these days I am often the first one out to bow with her, which is very sweet.
I was already thinking about writing a few lines about this, when I received this as part of an email conversation yesterday (hoping the person will forgive me for reproducing their words unattributed):
"It has been an overwhelming time at the office lately, which tends to leave me physically drained, emotionally volatile, and generally less available for my non-work life. When I realized Blanche was waiting for me at the end of the gaitan, I about burst into tears from the kindness and patience".
There is nothing more to our practice than this.


Shonen said...

I remember a few years ago when Blanche starting doing this. I managed to make it to Friday afternoon zazen after a particularly hard week at work. Seeing Blanche bow to everyone as I walked down the gaitan seemed to lift a weight from my shoulders - getting my own was icing on the cake.

I listened to Rosalie's talk about Transmission and she mentioned how much Blanche helped her with sewing her okesa. When I was sewing my rakusu, a group of us would go to Green Gulch on Sunday afternoon and sew with Blanche. She seems to instinctively know when someone was stuck or about to do something wrong and would almost magically appear at their shoulder to help. All the while she would weave stories of sewing sessions she'd done in the past - bringing us all together and making us feel connected to all those who had taken this journey before us.

Blanche is one of a kind.

Shundo said...

I think the Japanese would call her a National Treasure. I always maintain that she has taught me a huge amount without saying anything.

owazsasn said...

It is indeed very comforting to get that bow from a respected teacher at the end of a long day and that is the comfort a person would find in a place like zen center.

However there have been enough posts and questions asked about intimacy, common ground and the lake of these that people feel in and around SF.

For those who are not going to renounce everything, their primary sense of intimacy and common ground will come from their personal dealings, and not from a general sense of compassion.

There the culture of openness, self-customization, flakiness will be detriments. A general rule is that if you haven't heard from, try to hear from a friend in six months they are not really a friend are they?

And if you don't consider it important to remember and engage on your friends significant occasion then they are not friends either.

But I wonder, is any conflict between the sense of universal compassion and specific friendships.